The murder case against Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke is pretty straightforward, and contained almost wholly in the seven-minute dashcam video where he’s seen firing 16 shots at 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, despite the absence of anything resembling a threatening advance from the teenager. The shots continue as McDonald rests in a fetal position on the ground, with Van Dyke even stopping to reload before a colleague intervenes.
A political case (if not a criminal one) against the Chicago power structure, right up to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, is just as clear-cut. The police first lied about the incident, saying the victim was “going at one” of the officers with a knife. At a nearby Burger King, 86 minutes of potentially damning security camera footage “mysteriously” disappeared; Chicago police officers were seen at a security-system terminal shortly after the killing.
Afterward, the city rushed through a preemptive $5 million settlement with McDonald’s family that included a clause to keep the video a secret. The deal was approved by the city only days after Emanuel secured a close reelection victory, and was done with no public comment nor debate in the city council. When journalists started asking questions about the shooting and went to court to force a release of the dashcam footage, Emanuel’s lawyers and the Cook County prosecutor fought to keep it secret. They were successful for 13 months until a judge finally ordered that the tape be made public, and only then was Van Dyke named publicly and charged.
In short, “there’s been a cover-up in Chicago,” as former University of Chicago law professor Bernard Harcout wrote in a New York Times op-ed Tuesday in which he called for Emanuel’s resignation. The cover-up is clear to those paying attention, including activists in Chicago, who are uniformly demanding Emanuel’s resignation.